“Into the Wild” is a movie that will surely split the viewing audience in two or maybe even the person watching.
There are those who will think Christopher McCandless is a spoiled, ignorant and selfish boy who just wanted to break away from his parents by doing something crazy. Then there are those who will find themselves relating to McCandless. They identify with his restless spirit of wanting to experience a grand adventure, to break away from society and find their own true self into those new experiences. They also identify with his pull of the outdoors, which is seductive yet often dangerous.
I fall into the latter category, but see both sides to this mysterious traveler. Here is a man who after graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, GA, takes the $20,000 left in his college fund and donates it to the Oxford Famine Relief Fund, heads off in his 1982 Datsun to the West, all the while not telling his family of his plans, or even his whereabouts during his almost three-year trek.
While exploring the West, his ultimate goal seems to be the beautiful Alaska. “Two years he walks the earth. No phones, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return ‘cause ‘The West is the best.’” And now after two rambling years come the final and greatest adventure.
The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization, he flees and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.” That is a quote from McCandless that was inscribed in the abandoned bus he found in the Alaskan wilderness. That same bus he spent over 16 weeks in, and due to a mistake regarding an inedible plant, also starved in.
“Into the Wild” takes us along on his journey and makes us really think about his actions. Is he really a nutcase for giving up the promise of a bright future, or is he a hero for making his own true choices, and not that ones that society expects from us?
Emile Hirsch (Lords of Dogtown) plays McCandless and his performance is almost as captivating as the cinematography. He plays Supertramp (the pseudonym McCandless goes by) with such stubbornness and sensitivity. His chemistry with a weary widower, Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook) is great, and his goodbye scene had me crying in the theater, which has not happened since I saw “Titanic” in 1997.
I cannot find much fault with “Into the Wild.” The acting is superb, the director is wonderful, if not a bit idolizing of McCandless, and you cannot argue with the beauty of the West, which is portrayed so beautifully by Eric Gautier. Even the soundtrack is great, mostly comprised of the haunting vocals of Eddie Vedder.
The movie length might be a problem for some. It clocks in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, but I did not mind the running time. I was so swept away by this film that I found it hard to be annoyed with the woman who was obviously wanting to leave and picking a fight with her husband about it.
“Into the Wild” does not have a wide release for the Columbus area, but it is too good to pass up. Be still my heart, I love this movie and admire the over-confident, but brave man that was Christopher McCandless.
I give this film A+
Dedra Cordle is Messenger staff writer.